“Sandpiper has no significant impact”
The developers of the Sandpiper project off the coast of Namibia have found no significant environmental issues regarding its marine component.
“No significant environmental issues pertaining to the marine component of the Sandpiper project have been identified to preclude the dredging of phosphate-enriched sediments from the mining licence area No.170 in the environment impact assessment (EIA) report submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism recently,” said Chris Jordinson, managing director of UCL Resources Ltd.
According to Jordinson the stakeholders have, however, identified numerous management and mitigation strategies for the various project aspects and potential impacted areas.
These strategies involve achieving all requirements as outlined in the environmental management plan as in the EIA report; to establish integrated safety, health, environment and quality and operational management systems to facilitate the implementation of the environmental management plan and to undertake monitoring programmes. Mitigation strategies also involve ensuring that the operations at sea are undertaken in accordance with accepted safe and responsible vessel management practices as well as ensuring that the appropriate emergency response systems are in place.
The project, which is based on a marine phosphate deposit situated about 60km offshore and 150km south of Walvis Bay in water depths of 180-300m, has caused alarm amongst environmental experts who say it could have a negative impact on the fisheries industry. A loss of habitat, impairment of food chain functionality, possible release of hydrogen sulphide into the water column, removal of typical spawning and feeding grounds and interference with fish behaviour, are some of the potential impacts of the proposed marine activities associated with the Sandpiper project.
Minemakers owns 42.5% shares in the Sandpiper project, while Union Resources Limited own another 42.5%. Local partner, Tungeni Investments own 15.0%. Once operational, the project could produce 3 million tonnes of marketable rock phosphate concentrate per annum. The Ministry of Mines and Energy awarded the joint venture partners with a mining licence for a period of 20 years. The project will create an estimated 300 to 400 employment opportunities during the construction phase and another 150 permanent jobs during production.
Jordinson says the benefits which can be gained from the proposed project are significant.
“These benefits include employment opportunities for Namibians; training, skills development and educational advancements; increased economic opportunities for support service industries and it could establish Namibia among the world leaders in the production of phosphate,” he told the Economist.
He further said that the initial rock phosphate concentrate production forms the first phase of a possible development of an integrated phosphate/fertilizer industry in Namibia.
“It is the company’s intention to investigate at a later stage an in-country beneficiation of the product by development of locally based phosphoric acid and fertiliser plant which would create significantly more employment opportunities,” Jordinson said.